Demons Slain - Cover

Demons Slain

Copyright© 2011 by Texrep

Chapter 1

The West Country was as beautiful as ever. I enjoyed my job, but the times when I came down to Devon and travelled the western counties were special. The views were spectacular with hills and valleys, hedgerows delineating the irregular shapes of meadows and pastures providing a kaleidoscope of shades of greens, dotted with the white of sheep or the dun red of cattle. All this was balm to an unquiet mind. To divert the eye were the fields of yellow rape contrasting with the rich red earth. The complete aspect resembled a hand-made quilt thrown casually over an unmade bed. The peaceful atmosphere here would put all the negative thoughts to the back of my mind. Negative thoughts had been for some time my constant companion, a result of my divorce. The divorce itself was reasonably simple; the prologue to the divorce was a nightmare; as was the aftermath. The prologue was the fighting and arguing; the aftermath was the self-recrimination. Why I should blame myself I do not know as the fault lay with my ex-wife. But I did blame myself for seeing her through rose-coloured spectacles and not as the evil person she really was. Love can blind you and for those early years of my marriage I was blinded.

I turned off the air conditioning and wound down the window to take in deep breaths of that wonderful soup of oxygen rich air, garnished with the scent of abundant hedgerow flora, the sweet smell of new grass and cattle manure. People may turn their noses up but at certain times even the pungent aroma of dung can be pleasant. It was certainly a change from the acrid odours of petrol and diesel fumes that prevailed in the towns and cities. I was heading towards Tavistock and the small hotel I used on these trips. The beds were comfortable, the food delicious and they had a very pleasant garden to wander for an evening stroll and the occasional cigarette I would allow myself. It was an excellent base from which over the next four days I would make my calls and hopefully write some good orders.

The sun was setting low in the west as I turned into the drive. The few remaining clouds were tinged with a blush, a promise for another fine day tomorrow. I parked and pulled my case from the boot. The hotel was a conversion of one of those large country houses that the flourishing Victorian businessman would build to demonstrate his success. The twentieth century with its high taxes and minimum wage demands made running such houses impossible and they were sold off, some to become asylums, others to be turned into corporate headquarters and many as in this case as a hotel. The reception was a large square area with settees around the perimeter and old paintings in ornate frames hung on every wall. The paintings were dull foreboding landscapes so typical of Victorian artists; dust and the patina of age had not improved them at all. Usually the receptionist was Angela but today a different face looked at me from the desk. She was very good-looking, medium height, dark brown hair and a very shapely figure, however the look on her face marred her beauty; no smile just a grim forbidding expression. This was a far cry from the smiling welcoming face that was Angela.

"Good evening. My name is Hammond, I have a room reserved."

Without acknowledgment she turned her back to me and spoke to someone in the office. "Hammond. He says he has a reservation."

A squeal of delight came from the office. "It's Greg!" Angela came out to the desk, a smile lighting up her face. She was a plump busty woman in her late forties and full of life invariably wearing that welcoming smile. "It's so good to see you again, Greg. How long will you be here this time?"

"Four days, Angela. I would like to stay longer, but mammon is a hard taskmaster." She grinned and took a key from the rack.

"Your usual room of course, and are you dining tonight?"

"Where else would I go? I can't get better anywhere else."

"There's a good chippy opened in the town." She joked. I picked up my case.

"John would never forgive me." We laughed and I made my way to the stairs. As I climbed them I looked back to see Angela making a point to the woman on reception.

My usual room was a double charged as a single. I would have been happy to pay the double rate but Angela gave me the preferential rate as I was a regular customer. It was on the side of the hotel, overlooking the superb gardens. Raising the eyes upwards from the garden allowed me the vista of the foothills sloping upwards towards Dartmoor and in the mornings the emergent Sun cast patterns of light and shadow over the rolling moor. I unpacked, settling myself in and made a cup of tea. Then I sat down to write out my orders for the day. I worked for a company that made cushions, very special cushions. If you had a stately home and you wanted the right cushion to go with your silk curtains and antique furniture, you came to us. We made cushions with the finest silks, jacquards, brocades and matelasses. We used trimmings of silken cords often twisted with gold thread, and tassels of silk knotted by hand. Our cushions were seen in Palaces, Castles and Stately Homes and they cost a fortune. It was only those retailers who catered for the very top end of the trade who would stock from us, consequently my calls were few and far between, but each call could take as much as half a day. The orders were complicated as my customers had strict specifications, annoying perhaps but when they were paying as much for one cushion that another would pay for a two seat settee, they have the right to be particular.

Before dinner I took a stroll to see what changes Arthur, the gardener had made this year. The Rhododendrons and Azaleas were blooming well, but they always did well in the acidic soil of the west. I noticed a bed of Geraniums that was new; they would look great when in flower later this year. One feature of the garden was the abundance of roses chosen so that as one display faltered there would be another coming into bloom to keep the plethora of colour. I took a seat on a bench which the staff referred to as Arthur's Throne. It was where he habitually took his lunch every day. Also habitually the fare would be the same; Crusty bread, a wedge of strong Cheddar cheese and a raw onion, which he would slice with his pruning knife. He carried a dark brown bottle with a wired flip top from which he would drink deeply from time to time, it was rumoured to be filled with Rough Cider, a most potent of drinks. If it was he must be inured to its alcoholic effects as no one had ever seen him drunk. I hadn't been borrowing Arthur's Throne for long before I was approached by the woman who had not greeted me at reception. I thought she would be about my age, slim and quite good-looking. She stopped when she arrived at the bench and I looked up.

She cleared her throat. "I have to apologise to you. I was not very polite when you arrived." She said this in a tone that sounded as if the apology was being forced out of her.

"It was not quite the welcome I usually receive, I have to say. But thank you for the apology." I smiled. "I get used to my customers being less than enthusiastic when I call, so it is water off a Duck's back." If I thought that remark would smooth the situation I was mistaken.

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